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A guide to: Laying perfect floorboards

BY Ned Browne

1st Jan 2015 Home & Garden

A guide to: Laying perfect floorboards

There are thousands of different types of flooring, but the truth is it’s hard to beat the humble wooden floorboard. Beautiful floorboards can give any room that wow factor. Well-fitted floorboards will also stop squeaks and drafts.

If you need to take up the old timber floor

DIY floorboards

Ideally, you will have a crowbar and a claw hammer. A multi-cutter or saw will come in handy too. 

Locate a joist below—the brads will give it away. Then hammer in the edge of your crowbar and prize up the first board. This is always the hardest one. 

Be careful—boards can suddenly give way and send you careering backwards into the room below.

After you have removed each board, sweep the joists and remove any wayward nails. You may need to remove the skirting boards too.


What sort of board?

Most floorboards are between 90mm and 300mm in width and you can choose between tongue, groove and straight edged.

The advantage of tongue and groove floorboards is that they create strength in unity and eradicate drafts. However, they can be a pain if you need to take them up again.

It’s wise to opt for straight edged floorboards with insulation underneath (i.e. between the floor joists).  The thicker the insulation, the better.


Where to buy floorboards

Where to buy floorboards

Standard softwood floorboards are commodity products. Search online to find your cheapest supplier. If you’re planning on carpeting the room or are on a budget, these are the best option.

Hardwood floorboards, such as Oak, Ash, Elm and Cherry can vary greatly in quality. Your best bet is to visit the sawmill or ask to be sent samples.

Auction websites are also a good source of second-hand floorboards.


Fitting your floorboards

Whatever type you fit, make sure you leave a 5mm gap at each end. This will stop them warping when they expand or contract. If you’re fitting straight-edged boards, you should also leave a 1mm gap between each board. This will prevent them warping and squeaking.

Purists will nail down the floorboards using traditional brads. Instead, you can screw them down using drywall screws (which are the most inexpensive screws available). This prevents those dreaded squeaks and makes them easy to lift up.

Once the floor is up, you can inspect beneath. If there’s a build up of detritus, a leaking pipe or rotten joists, bite the bullet and fix them while you have the chance.

Top tip: If you’re planning on varnishing your floor, put the first layer of varnish on before fitting.


The finish

Woman finishing flooring

Assuming you’re not carpeting the room, you have a number of options here. Remember, with most there’s no turning back so make a decision and stick to it.  If possible, get an offcut and paint your finish onto that first.

Most people apply varnish. Whether you go with gloss, satin on matt is your choice, but painted floorboards look great too. Specialist floorboard paint is a must, or they won’t last.

When you’re done, finish with a rug and watch your friend’s admiring glances.